For almost six decades, steam has been a reliable way to sterilize a key material used in the fermentation of penicillin at a Novartis plant in Kundl, Austria. But process manager Markus Widauer figured a different approach using filters would yield important energy savings in a facility that produces more than 190 million packets of medicine a year.
Over nine months in 2014, technicians tested various filter combinations and in February 2015, the new process was fully on line. The change will cut natural gas used in the process by 14% a year, lowering carbon dioxide emissions at Kundl by 680 tons -- the equivalent of emissions from 500 average cars driven 10,000 kilometers a year.
An improvement in Sandoz‘s fermentation processes also made it possible to significantly reduce energy consumption.
“The cumulative effect of these gains can be significant,” said Widauer.
Changing this process at Kundl is just one of many schemes across Novartis that have helped the company cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15% from 2008 to 2015, despite increases in production levels. Novartis is now setting tough new targets to further manage and minimize the environmental impact of its activities. The primary goal is a 30% cut in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, based on 2010 levels, as well as substantial reductions in water consumption and in quantities of non-recyclable waste.
“We have already saved around 190 kilotons of CO2 emissions since 2010, equivalent to a 10% cut in our worldwide energy consumption,” said Juergen Brokatzky-Geiger, Global Head of Novartis Corporate Responsibility.
The new targets are in four strategic areas: energy and climate, water and micropollutants, material and waste, and sustainable environmental management. Novartis will also seek to involve suppliers in the process, to reducing the carbon footprint of its global supply chain network through measures such as reducing the use of air freight wherever possible.
“The goals are ambitious,” acknowledged Brokatzky-Geiger. “We are convinced they can be achieved, though not without a great deal of hard work.” Novartis supports global efforts to curb greenhouse gases and avoid pollution. It was one of the first signatories of the United Nations Global Compact in 2000 and has pursued an advanced environmental policy for more than ten years, exceeding savings targets in energy and water consumption, the reduction of waste and lowering of emissions.
To better understand the cost-effectiveness of its environmental protection activities, Novartis has set an internal price of $100 per ton of generated carbon emissions. Building a carbon price into investment decisions is important as it recognizes the cost of emissions and helps identify those projects that will most cost-effectively enable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as part of the drive toward a lower-carbon business.
Novartis will continue to focus on lowering greenhouse gas emissions by using energy from renewable sources and improving the energy efficiency of its operations worldwide. The company manages and reports on the environmental impact of its business and aims to make more efficient use of raw materials and natural resources. It imposes similar expectations on suppliers through the Novartis Supplier Code, which sets out requirements in areas ranging from ethical standards to environmental protection.
“I think the results of our work so far show we are capable of even greater strides,” said Brokatzky-Geiger. “We must continue to go further.”